The top two teams in Little Eight Conference and Section 6A-South contenders met in Evansville on Friday night in a defensive battle.
The Brandon-Evansville girls basketball team shut down the defending sub-section champions, Parkers Prairie, with its full-court press defense to get a 53-45 win.
"We lost a tough one in West Central on Tuesday night," B-E head coach Zach Traphagen said. "The girls came out with a sense of urgency knowing that we have to get this game at home against a really good Parks Prairie team. They really bought in, and stuck to the defensive gameplan. They applied pressure when it needed to be applied late in the game, which wore the legs down of Parkers."
The Chargers held the lead for nearly the entire game. In the first half, B-E took a 25-19 lead behind the poised paint play from Mikenna Pattrin and timely three-point shooting from its guards.
"Mikenna is usually going to get double digits every night," Traphagen said. "Kristen Kokett probably played her best game of the season tonight, and Bailey Schaefer has really come on as of late. Haddey Zastrow couldn't buy a bucket tonight, but she's had games where she's been on fire. It's nice to know we can get scoring from all over the place, and the girls know that they need to give the ball to the hot hand."
The Chargers executed their gameplan of contesting the Panther's most prolific scorer. Faith Alberts is used to putting up big numbers, but on Friday night, she was held in check to 12 points.
"We rushed some shots offensively," Parkers Prairie head coach John Noga said. "We didn't take our time, and that's been getting us in trouble. I feel like we still have a lot of potential, but we still have to find our groove offensively. Every team goes through these ups-and-downs shooting."
Even though the Panthers couldn't break through on the offensive end, their defense kept the game within reach. Midway through the second half, Parkers Prairie took its first lead of the game off a three-pointer from Hali Moske.
"Our big thing has always been defense. We just have to have the effort every night," Noga said. "Overall, the defense was there. We forced a turnover that actually led to us getting the lead at one point. At times we weren't matched up with the right players, and that hurt us a couple of times. But I was happy with the defense."
The Chargers tied the game on their next possession and followed it up with a steal off the inbound pass. Pattrin put away an easy layup for two of her 17 points to put B-E back in front.
"We came out and played our zone defense. I had a smaller girl inside when they started finding (Pattrin) in the middle," Noga said. "She does a really good job in the post, and I bet she gives a lot of teams problems. They had a good gameplan for her that we didn't catch up to right away."
B-E's full-court press was the difference-maker late in the game. The Panthers turned the ball over on three inbounds passes in the final six minutes of the game. Traphagen has found a way to get a new level of intensity from his team in his first year as head coach.
"It starts with practice and getting into good habits every day," he said. "Sometimes they'll show up, and practice won't be the most fun place to be at for them, but we are trying to do everything competitively on a daily basis. We tried some softer defenses, but we felt like we got the best outcomes when we played that aggressive style where they could show that intensity."
The Chargers played a complete game to get one of their biggest wins of the season so far. To be a real contender in a loaded Section 6A field, Traphagen believes his girls need to compete as they did on Friday.
"The biggest thing I've noticed from watching them last year to coaching them this year is they sometimes wouldn't have the will to compete all the time," Traphagen said. "We're still not there yet, but we are doing a much better job of competing for a full 36 minutes. In games like this where it goes right down to the wire, it's a big indicator of how close we are to getting to that level we need to be at."
Despite the loss, Noga feels good about where his team is heading down the stretch.
"We played Hancock the other night, and they ran a full-court press. We had no problems with it," Noga said. "I'd say 90% of the teams we play run a full-court press. Sometimes we just lose our focus a bit and get tired. I was caught up with Dick Simpson tonight (former B-E head coach), and we talked about how this section is wide open. It's going to come down to making shots, and I think we'll be okay."
PARKERS PRAIRIE 19 26 - 45
BRANDON-EVANSVILLE 25 28 - 53
B-E SCORING- Kirsten Kokett 8, Bailey Schaefer 11, Caitlyn Deschene 5, Kailee Klimek 7, Brittany Korkowski 3, Mikenna Pattrin 17;
PARKERS PRAIRIE- Megan Blake 15, Ana Marquardt 5, Macy Jakubiec 4, Faith Alberts 12, Hali Moske 4, Emily Beninger 3, Rehgan DeBoer 2